Bonnie Crater - The CMO Guide to C-Suite alignment
Bonnie Crater is the president and CEO of the California-based marketing performance management company Full Circle Insights.
The roles and responsibilities of C-suite executives have transformed significantly in the past year, and alignment has never been more crucial to the functioning of a company. In this episode, we discuss what this change means for the Chief Marketing Officer and how they should drive agility and alignment in their organization. We focus particularly on data and on the alignment between sales and marketing as two key factors in this.
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“Making alignment a priority for the job of the CMO will not only improve the marketing function, but also we'll have a wonderful impact across the entire company.”
Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.
Tim Butara: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Our guest today is Bonnie Crater, President and CEO at Full Circle Insights, California-based company which is helping optimize the performance of sales and marketing initiatives through their performance measurement solutions. In today's episode, Bonnie will be telling us more about the unique role of the chief marketing officer in aligning the C-suite of a business. Welcome, Bonnie. Thanks for joining me on the show today.
Bonnie Crater: Thank you so much, Tim. It's great to be here. You want to add anything before we jump into questions? You got it. All right. Perfect.
Tim Butara: Awesome. So my first question for you today is how has the role of marketing leaders transformed in the past 18 months, so, since the start of Covid, and maybe also how has the role of other business leaders transformed? And what does this whole transformation mean for kind of the dynamics between their departments?
Bonnie Crater: Yeah. So there's been a lot of change. And one of the jobs of marketing leaders is to assess these changes and the impact that's going to have on companies. And so this is a very important function of marketing. You know, some companies are product driven, some companies are sales driven. But in a period of crisis, the marketing team is expected to step up and to assess the situation and provide leadership during these types of times. And I've seen that good behavior and that bad behavior many times over the years.
Tim Butara: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense, right. Because, especially during a crisis during times of uncertainty where messaging and communication is so important. And this typically falls under the domain of marketing, right?
Bonnie Crater: Yeah. Absolutely. So companies, CEOs, salespeople, even the product people, the service people especially, they're looking to the marketing team to provide them guidance on, what should they say? And as you say, messaging becomes really, really, really, really key. Another key aspect of it is to really assess the business. And so it's up to the marketing team to really assess the ideal-- first, you want to reassess the ideal customer profile. So in the pandemic, is your ICP, that ideal customer profile, is it the same, or has your buyer actually changed because they can't buy? So it's very important to do that assessment and do a good job with that.
And then I also say the market team needs to access the channels of their sales channels to have the sales channels change during this time period, and what should be done about that? So are your resellers able to resell? Are your marketing channels still the same? Obviously, we had very few - probably zero - live events that would be normally part of a trade show program that a marketing team might run in various types of industries. And so it's a fairly obvious assessment that - okay, we're not doing any more live events. But assessing the channels, both on the sales side and the marketing side of how you're going to engage with prospects and with customers is also really important. And so I would say, by and large, marketing teams responded well, and they provided messaging and they assessed the channels and they adjusted. Being able to adjust is really, really important during this time.
Tim Butara: Yeah. Because as you said, your customers have changed and obviously your own processes, your own people even have changed. So there's just this all around change, and we all have to adapt to it.
Bonnie Crater: That's right. Yeah. And it's strategic. The people that can adapt the fastest and the best will win.
Tim Butara: That's a quotable line right there. Awesome. Well, in addition to all this change, or maybe even because of it, we've also been seeing a trend of a lot of companies adopting more agile strategies, and not just for their software development, for basically all purposes. And I mean, obviously, we've already pinpointed one of the main reasons for this. But are there any other reasons why Agile has become so popular and also how can CMOs promote Agility within their organizations?
Bonnie Crater: Yeah. So being able to respond, obviously, during this time, has been really important. And those people that are already agile, are using some agile practices, probably had an advantage to start with. Those people, or those companies that already had people already working remotely. They had an advantage too, they didn't have to make too many changes. But the ability to beat-- the concept, just general concept of being agile, of course, this is a very important concept. Of course, it started with software development, where you would have these very specific plans. Right. And then you execute and build the software exactly to what the plan is. And don't skip any steps and get to the end. Okay. And then at the end, you assess like, well, is it good or not?
Well, with agile practices, of course, that was all turned on its head, but not too much. Right. So there's sort of an extreme agile where you're assessing over and over again, and then you could kind of spin yourself into an unproductive state. What most people have done now on the software development side is to combine some agile practice with some waterfall practices so that you're using a little bit of both. And that seems to be the kind of the best way of doing it.
Now, marketing teams have theoretically always been agile. Because you're in the job in itself, you're trying to assess market, you're assessing prospects. You're always doing this assessment to test, to see, to make sure you're on target. The concept of A/B testing. It's a very simple concept. A and B, right. Does A work better, message A, or does message B work better? And so marketing teams, by nature, have always been agile. But they've added some really good practices taken from the software community, I think, which I think is really good.
The first thing is and I hope this is not too long an answer. So the first thing is the concept of the stand up meeting. Right. This is a very short meeting. Could be 10,15 minutes, where you're basically just touching base and making sure that everybody's on track. This replaces the long hour and a half meeting or hour meeting, which may not be the best use of time. If you can have the short meeting and get the job done in 15 minutes, that's great. So adopting the standup meeting, I think, is really important.
The other area is identifying sprints. Right. Where can you do a sprint? A sprint is basically a project. Okay. But the idea of a sprint is to basically put it in an envelope, say, two weeks or four weeks or something like that. And the concept of putting it into an envelope is really helpful, particularly for certain types of projects. So if you're doing a lot of content development, sometimes you just sort of get stuck. You know, I've seen this over again. You get stuck and you can't kind of break through and get the project finished.
So the concept of a sprint can really add a lot of productivity to that kind of a project, to that kind of team where you are combining the standup meeting. Like, how are you doing?, and touching base and getting people motivated and excited about completing completion. And then you're also, have very specific goals of like, okay, we're gonna finish this case study in two weeks. Here we go. And so that combination can really stimulate productivity in a marketing department. And that's been proven over and over again.
Tim Butara: Yeah. And they really go really well together, hand in hand, right. I mean, it's like, with waterfall, you had these longer periods of time, which were kind of characterized by longer meetings. And in agile, you have these shorter sprints, which are characterized by standup or scrum meetings, which are these more regular but very, very shorter meetings.
Bonnie Crater: Yeah. And who wants to be, sit in a meeting all day? Who wants that? No one.
Tim Butara: Yeah. Especially now when it basically means that you'll have to just be on Zoom all day.
Bonnie Crater: Yeah. No one wants that. So in effect, I think some of the video technology, like Zoom is actually facilitating it, because none of us want to be on camera for that long.
Tim Butara: It's making the breakthrough of it not being as important as previously or something like that.
Bonnie Crater: Exactly.
Tim Butara: And yeah, Agility is also very closely tied to collaboration and alignment. So can you tell us more about that? Maybe since we started talking about sales and marketing working together earlier, can you maybe focus on these-- collaboration between these two and how agile plays into that.
Bonnie Crater: Yeah. This is another very important concept of agile, which is measurement, too. So, in addition to stand-ups and the time periods, measuring success or failure or measuring is really important. So that's number one. And the measurement, there's a new concept that's being promoted by Forrester Group, the Serious Decisions Division of Forrester Group, called the Revenue Council. And a lot of companies already have this, but they don't call it Revenue Council, they call it something else.
But basically, what they're doing is they're looking at the measurement of what's happening with all of their marketing in this meeting. And the Revenue Council might consist of marketing operations, which is responsible for the operations side of the marketing team, sales operations, which is responsible for the sales operations, and then the people that are kind of catching the ball and all the leads and the opportunities, which would be your demand gen group, which drive and they're interested in measurement of what's happening with their demand generation, and then the sales development reps who might be catching a lead and following up and qualifying that lead. The last member of the Revenue Council might be finance, who’s just making sure that you're providing guidance around the financial aspect, the financial impact or the financial or your marketing spend.
So you put all those people in a room. You call it a Revenue Council and you have a regular meeting. This is something that, at my company, Full Circle Insights, we recommend really strongly-- our best customers, the one that are most successful at optimizing their marketing spend and growing faster are the ones that have this meeting. So they develop a Revenue Council and the Revenue Council meets every week. We have one customer where they meet twice a week because it's so important. The time frame you meet is largely dependent on your sales cycle. So if you have super long sales cycle, you might have, might be every other week. But if you have a shorter sales cycle, you might have more frequent meetings.
But this Revenue Council is key to alignment, right? Because you're actually putting people who are involved in the same activity of making the company successful and grow in the same room, looking at the same data and discussing how they can make their company better, what's working. And so they can do more of what's working; what's not working and do less of what's not working.
Tim Butara: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Bonnie Crater: We see these meetings as really a key to alignment because it's about communication across departments. If you do not have this communication, you will never be aligned because alignment is all about communication.
Tim Butara: And here again, it's marketing who is the most important player since marketing is typically kind of proponent of and kind of the carrier of communication.
Bonnie Crater: Well, yes, a marketing should propose these meetings but in the meeting, marketing needs to be a player with the other teammates, not going in with the attitude that they're the most important, because that typically doesn't work that great. But providing leadership and proposing okay, this is how we should show up. This is how we should operate. These are the discussion points, that's leadership and marketing needs to be a driver of this kind of leadership, because the other departments may be less interested in doing this meeting, and you have to sell this to the other departments to explain, like, okay, if we are all aligned, we're going to be much better and much better off.
Tim Butara: Yeah, that's an important clarification. Thanks. And yeah, the other key point of kind of driving these digital marketing initiatives, and overarching digital strategies is data. Obviously, data is the driving force of everything going on in the digital. So how should CMOs and their teams adapt to, on the one hand, the influx of data thanks to the Covid-fuelled digitalization. And on the other hand, the growing number of privacy updates, which are kind of becoming more and more specific, while also maybe, this is important, while also keeping the goals of the whole organization always first and foremost?
Bonnie Crater: With regard to data. There's so much more data now that everything is basically gone digital, right? That's so many more clicks, so many more responses, so much more information, so much more information about profiles of companies or people. There's all of this data that's out there. So rule number one is put all your prospect and customer data in one place. That is the most important thing. And the reason for that is, going back to the meetings. So if you have data that's all over the place, right. It's very, very difficult to organize, organize a chart or a trend around data that's dispersed all over the place.
You have to put the data in all one place, and we recommend at Full Circle putting it into your CRM. We like Salesforce.com as a CRM, but we feel it's very important to put all your data in one place, because that becomes the system of record for your sales and marketing operations. And so not just your sales operations, which is where most CRMs started. They started really to capture-- it was the Rolodex, the electronic Rolodex. That's how it started, right.
But now the full use of the CRM is essential for smooth operations. Putting all of your prospect data, putting all your marketing data and putting all your follow-on service data into the CRM. So you have a full picture of every prospect and every customer, and everyone logs into the same system and they see the same information. So they're not logging into different systems and seeing different information about a particular individual or customer or what have you, they're seeing the same information, and that becomes the basis for the discussion. So that's sort of rule number one and then you also asked a question about privacy, which we can talk about too.
Tim Butara: Yeah. Just to make a point about this. I just wanted to say that. Yeah, you can't have real alignment if your data is siloed and if it's not uniform for everybody. So yeah, I was just thinking about those meetings. If everybody has their own unique version of-- even if it's the same data, but it's the different version of the data, then there's no use in having these meetings and kind of striving for alignment, because it’s the wrong start.
Bonnie Crater: Absolutely. So from my perspective, the table-stakes foundation is put the data in all one place, and this is not that common, though. You know, people are still evolving to try to do this. So it's very interesting. We're in a very interesting time. We're evolving towards much more digital ways of doing things.
Tim Butara: Yeah, it's called digital transformation, after all, right? Okay. What about privacy? What about privacy and kind of the growing number of data?
Bonnie Crater: Well, there's just a couple of key rules for privacy, and if you build this into your culture, it becomes not a problem. Everyone looks at these privacy things as being a big issue, but it's very, just very important to build this into your company culture. One is you do not share private information about your customers and prospects with anyone for any reason whatsoever. That is company confidential information. Don't do it. Number two is somebody asks you to delete their private information. You need to have mechanisms to delete the information. And then the third thing is you need to secure that information so that no one can break into it. It's very challenging these days by hardening your system so that at least it's much harder to break into and protecting that data is really, really important. So if you do those three things, that's what all the legislation is all about is all about that. And so just following those kind of three rules of thumb and doing it well, you should be in good shape.
Tim Butara: Yeah, I think those are definitely key rules to follow. It's nice to talk to somebody who has such a keen understanding of these things about privacy. And you have a very close perspective about this as I do. So, very great. Okay. Maybe now we've discussed things more about marketing, more about organization, but now maybe let's focus on the chief marketing officer themselves. So what must CMOs know? Or maybe how should they approach their work to ensure maximum alignment with other executives and the respective departments?
Bonnie Crater: Okay. So this sort of goes to the top because the CEO, the CEO, is in charge of this alignment. It's up to the CEO to put systems in place that create an environment where alignment is a high value in the organization. And there's lots of ways to do that. So I'm a former Salesforce.com employee, and when I was working for Marc Benioff. He had invented, I think he invented it, a system called the V2MOM, M-O-M. And you can Google Salesforce and the letter V the number two, and then M-O-M. So you Google that and you'll see this information about a system that creates-- is all about alignment and aligning your organization towards some very important things.
Number one is aligning on the vision. What are you all about? Why are you doing this? And have a very specific statement that creates your vision. The second is the value. And that's about, how are you going to show up? Like you come to work every day, ow are we going to show up? What are the ways, what are the most important things for your company? And then the MOM part is methods, obstacles and measurements. So that’s methods. So what are you going to do? Obstacles, which is, what are the reasons that you couldn't do it? And the measurement is how you're going to measure success?
So the V2MOM is a process that at my company we use every year. Salesforce does the same. And there's actually hundreds and thousands of companies around the globe that actually have adopted this. And all those companies strive as a value for their company to be aligned. Right. So everybody knows what the purpose of the company is, how they're going to show up to work, what they're going to try to do that year. What are the things that they're trying to overcome? The obstacles are trying to overcome? And then how are they going to measure success?
So it's pretty straightforward. Five slides. But the job of the CEO is to create an environment where it's not hard to be aligned. It's just part of the company culture. So if you're a CEO, if you're a CEO and you are starting a company, it's your job to create the environment in which everyone is going to operate and how you're going to be. Now, the CMO can play a role, a very important role in this, is to contribute strongly to this type of document or process.
We use V2MOM, but there's lots of other things that people use to create alignment. Many books have been written about the subject, but having a process, right. And driving a process for getting alignment can be a role that the CMO can play, and it's across all departments. In this particular case, it's not just marketing and sales, it’s across every department and knowing how you're going to show up and what you're trying to accomplish.
Tim Butara: I've not heard of V2MOM, but I think I've definitely used some of the tactics at different companies that are present in there. So it's probably a lot of common sense. And, on the other hand, just kind of setting a new standard for these types of things because, as you said, Benioff basically invented it, as you said.
Bonnie Crater: Yeah, this is not rocket science, right? It's very much common sense. But this particular construct is one easy to implement for a small or large company. And number two, it provides intense clarity for everyone in the company. The other piece of, this is not you create the MOM at the beginning of the year and then you abandon it. No, that's not what you do. At every company meeting you talk about your values, you talk about your vision. This is the job of the CEO is to just make sure everybody knows because there's new employees coming in and they don't know. They need to learn in order to assimilate into your culture, they need to know how you are, what you stand for, what's important to you.
And so this is, CEOs often are repeating themselves a lot. That's part of the job. Sorry. And repeating yourself reinforces these ideas and creates alignment across the entire company. And again, the CMO can play a key role here. If you've got a CEO that you're working with and they don't know how to do this, you know, suggest a method, and help them provide leadership because maybe they need coaching in this area, maybe they don't really know how to do it. And so CMOs, you can step up and actually provide that kind of leadership.
Tim Butara: That was very well said. And some really great tips, kind of moving into my next and final question already. So I was going to ask if you have any top tips, any words of advice for CMOs kind of who are trying to drive this alignment. And now I'm just going to ask, do you have any other great tips? Because you just gave us some really great ones.
Bonnie Crater: Yeah. I think that just generally, alignment creates efficiencies in companies. And so making alignment a priority for the job of the CMO will not only improve the function, the marketing function, but also will have a wonderful impact across the entire company. So it's up to executives to make things priorities. That's the idea, right. At the highest level. What's important? So making alignment an important initiative for you this year if you're a CMO can not only help you and your function, but can help the entire company.
Tim Butara: Awesome. I think that's an excellent word of advice and a great note to finish this episode. Just before we wrap up the call. If our listeners wanted to reach out to you or learn more about you, learn more about Full Circle Insights, where can they do that?
Bonnie Crater: Oh, thanks. I'm Bonnie Crater, and you can read about us at www.fullcircleinsights.com.
Tim Butara: Okay. I'll make sure to link that in the show notes. And, Bonnie, this has been a great conversation. Thanks so much for being our guest today. I really enjoyed this chat.
Bonnie Crater: Yeah. Thank you, Tim, for asking such great questions.
Tim Butara: Thank you for answering in such great ways. Well, to our listeners. That's all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe.
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